from where do you speak

During a recent conversation that tended to be mainly a critique on my particular style of writing I was told by a friend that he thought of me as cerebral. Now my initial reaction was to take his comment as a compliment but after thinking about it, I’m not quite so sure. Whether it was intended as a compliment or if I should have been offended will simply have to be left as a question unanswered.

Before Speaking

Before Speaking

According to one source “if you are a cerebral person, no one would ever call you a drama queen.” As I am definitively male and blissfully unaware of royal lineage I can readily agree that the probability of being anointed a drama queen is indeed remote. However the same source further states “You make decisions using your intelligence and cold, hard facts, instead of your emotions.” To a point I must plead ‘guilty as charged’ although implied here is a certain absence of emotion, suggesting a lack of compassion, empathy, or feeling for others and to that I must declare unequivocally ‘not guilty’.

Someone once told me that it seemed to her that I was much more comfortable writing (or texting) than I was in personal conversation and here again there is an element of truth to her claim. While I am not necessarily uncomfortable in speaking directly and in person, the fact is that I long ago recognized the inherent danger in directly engaging in any serious conversation without preparation. In much the same way and at the same time I came to the realization that there was no small amount of comfort and great safety to be garnered in retiring behind a keyboard to cogitate before expressing my thoughts and ideas. The simple truth is the mouth is often independent of the mind and too eager to utter without any consideration or thought.

When we speak off-the-cuff there is little or no time to seriously consider or deliberate what we will say and therein rests the danger. Far too many of us, especially those of us who have a tendency to viscerally react to certain topics, find ourselves guilty of ‘open mouth, insert foot’ syndrome. This syndrome is not entirely restricted to oral utterances; denizens of social media are often equally guilty, if not more so, since there is a certain degree of anonymity associated with social media and no real need to deliberate and think about what one is posting.

We have become ‘quick-draw’ artists, spitting words out faster than a speeding bullet, too often without a moment’s thought. Quite bluntly, we don’t think before we leap. We have taken Yoda’s admonition to heart “Do. Or do not. There is no try” and we unthinkingly blurt out or post what sits tenderly upon the heart, our feelings and emotions.

It is much different when one sits down to put thoughts to paper, assuming that the writer wishes to be taken seriously, for a careful, thoughtful writer will suffer and worry over every word, every phrase, every thought expressed. Here is where one’s intelligence and cold, hard facts are essential, where one’s emotions and feelings must give sway to the truth. To do otherwise would be dishonest and irresponsible. The writer should never hide or deny his feelings of compassion and empathy for the misfortunes of others or for any tragedy inflicted upon mankind and the human spirit. Yet the truth, tempered and steeled by cold, hard facts, must always, always rise above one’s emotional response; to do otherwise would be to lie, compounding the distress or pain or suffering that others are experiencing.

Not too long ago I was texting with a dear friend and our conversation had traveled down a path upon which I became increasingly distressed. It came to a point where I felt a visceral, unreasoned need to lash out, to respond with a quick sarcastic retort. As I began tapping my response I found myself over several long minutes erasing what I had written and then starting over. Back and forth I went until several minutes had passed and I realized that what I most wanted to do was to not respond at all and so I wrote: “You know I’ve been sitting here thinking how to respond…and I think the best thing to say is nothing at all.” And I did just that. Often that is what should be said: nothing at all. But we seldom exhibit such restraint and as a result it rapidly deteriorates into an incoherent argument that only serves to make us look foolish.

This past Sunday morning (June 12, 2016) as I sat down to breakfast I was shocked to hear the news of the horrendous massacre that had occurred in an Orlando, Florida nightclub: 50 people dead and 53 more injured some quite seriously. As this had only occurred a few short hours before, there remained much confusion and little in the way of cold, hard facts.

What was known at the time was that the massacre (and it most assuredly was a massacre) occurred around 2:30 in the morning at a gay nightclub by a single shooter, a man born in this country of Afghani immigrants, a natural born citizen, legally eligible to be elected President of the United States, who used an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle and a pistol to commit this heinous and horrific act of murder and terror.

Subsequently, authorities released his name, Omar Mateen, along with further information including the fact that the shooter worked as a security officer, was fully licensed, authorized, and obliged to carry a weapon for his job. He called 911 to inform the police of what he was about to do, and admitted that he was doing this for reasons of jihad and for ISIS. ISIS has proudly accepted responsibility for his actions.

Beyond the sheer magnitude of this terrorist attack—the largest since 9/11—and the unbelievable horror at the tremendous loss of life and the pain that will be endured by those who may survive and those who lost loved ones in this terrorist attack, beyond all that we now must endure the mindless, insipid, incessant prattle of unthinking self-styled commenters who will assuredly raise their shrill voices to blame everyone and anyone but those who are truly at fault.

It has already begun. It began well before any facts were made known, at least reliable, verified facts known and released to the public. Here are a few examples from those who couldn’t wait for the facts to come out. They obviously were in possession of all the facts they needed before the shooting even began.

Posted on Facebook a few hours after the shooting:

It defies logic that in view of all the mass shootings today not one Congressional hearing or Senate investigation has been held about gun safety. I’m not talking about your hunting rifle. I’m talking about assault weapons. When did they become available to anyone with no background check? Your second amendment rights are clashing with my right to feel safe! Where can you feel safe today? Not a chuch, or school, movie theater, shopping mall, airport, club, anywhere! I’ll tell you why: your Congressmen are bought and paid for by the NRA.

And another Facebook post at about the same time:

My heart breaks for this nation that seems to think violence is the answer to problems. Pray for these 50 killed and the many wounded in Florida. Prayers for their families and all those who love the victims of this tragedy. Pray for our nation to discover the violence changes nothing for the better. May God show us his mercy.

And then there are the Twitter Tweets:

Every time one of these shooting happen people send out prayers. I say screw prayers, I want stricter gun control laws. Now.

When will we stop “praying for victims” and take concrete action against this constant violence?

Obviously there are many more remarks, comments, statements, tweets, posts, all essentially establishing two undeniable truths:

  1. Those posters, tweeters, and commentators who so vacuously articulated their thoughtless comments before knowing the facts: fervently and emotionally believe that violence and guns are the problem, and the NRA is the cause.
  2. For them, the facts be damned.

Let’s return for a moment to the first post and give it some thought. The first thing to take note of is that this poster comes from a media background, thus one should take what was written with a large block of salt. Full disclosure—I personally know the poster.

Now let us dissect what she claims. Let’s begin at the beginning: “in view of all the mass shootings today.” I know of one mass shooting. Perhaps the poster has knowledge of others that no one else is privy. If that is so, I trust she will keep us and the rest of the country informed as those other situations develop.

She then posts: “not one Congressional hearing or Senate investigation has been held about gun safety.” Oh really? I suppose one should ignore all of the hearings and hundreds of laws that have been passed and enacted into law over the past say 20 or 30 years. Let’s conveniently forget all the anti-gun legislation passed by the Nancy Pelosi/Harry Reid led Congress and Senate. Of course there were never any hearings or investigations then were there?

But that is a minor issue, let’s continue: “I’m not talking about your hunting rifle. I’m talking about assault weapons. When did they become available to anyone with no background check?” Hmmmm? Last I checked there are laws banning fully-automatic assault weapons. Laws passed by the above mentioned twosome. Besides, must one be reminded of who it was that allowed licensed firearms dealers to sell over two-thousand weapons to known criminals, aka the Mexican drug cartels, without a single background check? How do you say “ATF, Justice Department, Attorney General Eric Holder, Fast and Furious?

The weapons used by Omar Mateen were legally purchased, background checks were conducted, and he was both authorized and obliged to carry a weapon for his job. Just because a rifle is described as an AR-15 style rifle does not make it a fully-automatic assault rifle. There is a huge difference (although understandably of no consequence or comfort for the victims) between a fully-automatic and a semi-automatic weapon. If you don’t understand or know the difference, please look it up. A good place to start would be the NRA website.

Now comes the true boogey man, “Your second amendment rights are clashing with my right to feel safe! Where can you feel safe today? Not a chuch (sp), or school, movie theater, shopping mall, airport, club, anywhere!” You got to love the boogey man! First, the second amendment is a ‘right’, your feelings are not. Never have been and never will be—well, except perhaps in your own mind. Now why might this be so? Because a right applies equally to everyone, your feelings do not. Your feelings are yours just as mine are mine, and never the two shall be the same. Would it make any difference if they were?

In the interest of waxing philosophical, let us examine this a bit further. A ways back, the year 1651 to be precise, the philosopher Thomas Hobbes declared that “Every man has a right to every thing…” and the world has never been as pleasant as once it were. According to Hobbes there is no good and evil, right and wrong, just and unjust. Humans are creatures entirely void of conscience, ruled solely by pleasure and pain, ravenous in our desires and ruthless in their pursuit.

Perhaps more insidious is his notion that human rights are simply equivalent to human desires, so that whatever we happen to desire we have a right to it by our nature. This is the basis of the belief held by many today that we have a ‘right’ to whatever we desire and that it is the government’s job to insure such rights. Good means getting whatever you want or feel you want, while evil is whatever stands in your way of getting it.

I especially enjoy this bit of imagery provided by philosopher Benjamin Wiker, who writes:

If no one is around to make us feel guilty, and we can for a moment banish any thought of divine retribution, this all might seem inviting, liberating, exhilarating. Until you realize—as your neighbor carries off your wife and your newspaper boy smashes your windows (aided by the sheriff, who then proceeds to strafe your house with bullets, trying to write his name on your aluminum siding)—that everyone else woke up just as you did, entirely relieved of all their burdens of conscience. You recognize that, rather than being blissfully free to fulfill you previously forbidden desires while everyone else behaves, you are plunged into ‘a war, as is of every man, against every man,’ in which there is ‘continual fear and danger of violent death,’ so that your life is very likely to be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.1

Now lest you inexplicably entertain the notion that what Hobbes divined three and a half centuries ago has nothing to do with the matter at hand, reread with care what I just wrote, especially Hobbe’s lovely philosophical view that rights equals desires (feelings). If you are still inclined to believe that feelings are rights then you won’t have any objection to my right (desire or feeling) to take whatever you have (car, house, furniture, money, life) that I should desire. Of course you have the right (desire or feeling) to do the same to me in return. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it. Hopefully, you will now have disabused yourself of such insanity although serious doubts do linger.

So let’s wrap this one up with “your Congressmen are bought and paid for by the NRA.” Beside the rather obvious but nagging issue with the illegality of human trafficking, to cop a phrase from an old commercial, “where’s the beef?” The last time I looked the NRA, as with any other member-driven organization, acts in accordance to the will of its membership. Now I realize that this particular organization has become boogeyman numero uno for those who ‘feel’ their feelings are being ignored but really, take a chill pill. If I and the millions of law-abiding citizens who are partial to our 2nd Amendment right to bear arms were to use the same illogical logic as those who support increasing gun control (with the ultimate goal of gun confiscation) then we ought to be clamoring for mandatory gun ownership—something akin to what is required in Switzerland. Sadly I must confess, responsible gun owners are not so insanely disposed.

Let’s look now at the second post. This one is a bit simpler to dissect and hopefully easier to correct. “My heart breaks for this nation that seems to think violence is the answer to problems.” We have heard this heartfelt plea before and it never ceases to amaze. Why is it that whenever any event such as Orlando or 9/11 occurs the blame is instantaneously, if not sooner, pushed onto the ‘nation’?

First of all, nations don’t think, can’t think, aren’t capable of a single cogent thought for nations are an intangible amalgamation of individuals, not an existential being; it has no mind of its own, just the collective will of its citizenry.   Second, if we break ‘this nation’ into its 300,000,000 plus individual members/citizens  and ask each what they ‘think’ I sincerely doubt that the vast majority believe that violence is the answer to problems, except perhaps those who are avid Hobbesian devotees. And third, this massacre was perpetrated by a single Islamic terrorist, a sick madman (who had passed background checks and used legally purchased weapons) who believed he was doing the will of a foreign organization bent on jihad (that means deadly violence) against infidels, anyone who does not believe exactly what they believe. Please note that this is NOT the belief of ‘this nation’, this violence was inflicted upon citizens of ‘this nation’ and ‘this nation’ should in no way be blamed or held responsible for it.

The poster ends with “Pray for our nation to discover the violence changes nothing for the better.” While prayer is truly needed, this plea for prayer is dreadfully misdirected. If the poster had asked to pray for those who would kill us, murder us, torture us, or who are bent on annihilating us from the face of the earth, or for them to discover that violence changes nothing for the better, now that would be a worthy prayer. If the prayer had been for those who died, those who were injured, those who were witness to this terrifying act, and their families and friends then that would have been a worthy prayer. Sadly, what prayer the poster asked for was directed elsewhere.

Ours is a great country, founded by thoughtful men of deep faith who believed “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We have forgotten; let us remember:

We must return to our roots, to remember and believe once again that we are “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”We must once again place our trust in Almighty God and the truth of his word.

We must rediscover what it means to be a free people, protected by those rights endowed by our Creator and not the desires or feelings of our neighbor.

We must stop blaming the victim and place the blame squarely and correctly on those who would destroy our country, our way of life, our freedoms, and our lives.

We must learn to love ourselves, our neighbors, and our nation again. There is far too much hate and too little love. We are children of God, residents of this great nation, free to strive to achieve our dreams and to pursue such happiness as we can attain. For this we must assume the responsibilities and duties which are asked and required of each and every one of us.

Finally, we must, and to this I most fervently pray, relearn how to stop, look, and listen. We must stop opening our mouths and inserting a very large boot in them. We need to think first, reason first, and consider carefully before we spit that next bullet.

For the victims and their families and friends of all the vicious attacks upon our great people and our land, I offer a prayer for healing and peace. For those who hold only hatred in their hearts, whose most earnest desire is to destroy what God has created and all that we stand for I offer a prayer for you: May God, who loves all his creation, bestow his grace and mercy upon your souls and guide you toward his boundless love, abundant peace and salvation.

God bless us all.

 


1 Benjamin Wiker, 10 Books That Screwed Up The World: and 5 Others that Didn’t Help, Regnery Publishing, May 19, 2008.

About the Author

Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator.

Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin.

He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is “Colloqui: A journal for restless minds”, a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated.

He is the author of two books: “The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence” which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and “Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories” which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love.

He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

1 Comment

  1. Deacon ‘C’huck…’C’ really does stand for cerebral imo. 🙂 That is meant as a compliment given the detail and reasoning you display in what you write! You now are my 2nd Amendment Deacon too!

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